The Internal Revenue Service acknowledged Friday that it inappropriately targeted conservative political groups for audits, Reuters reported.

Groups that had the words "tea party" or "patriots" in their filings for tax-exempt status were flagged for audits on that basis, according to Lois Lerner, director of the IRS' tax-exempt office, who said the practice "was absolutely incorrect and it was inappropriate."

"We would like to apologize for that," Lerner said during an American Bar Association conference in Washington, D.C. None of the groups that were given extra scrutiny have been rejected yet for tax-exempt status, she said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called on the White House to "conduct a transparent, government-wide review" to ensure that "these thuggish practices" are not being used by any part of the government against Americans regardless of their political views.

Lerner said the inappropriate screening process was "absolutely not" influenced by anyone in the Obama administration.